The Radio-Active Appliance Really Works

By Douglas G. Richards
[Note: The following article appeared in the March/April, 1996 (Volume 12, No. 2) issue of Venture Inward.  Douglas G. Richards, Ph.D., is research director at Meridian Institute, an instructor at Atlantic University, and co-author of The Radial Appliance and Wet Cell Battery.]
Two summers ago I hooked up to my first "radio-active" (or "radial") appliance, hopeful that this simple device recommended by the Edgar Cayce readings would stimulate the healing and balancing process in my body.  I hadn't been sleeping well and did not want to take any medications.  I also had had cold feet for a long time, and was curious about whether the appliance could help.

The Cayce readings, which describe the body as a holistic system that needs balancing to promote self-healing, recommended the radio-active appliance over 900 times, often for equalizing circulation and relaxing the nervous system.  "The radio-active appliance is good for everyone, and especially for those that tire or need an equalizing of circulation," says reading 826-3.

My condition was addressed in reading 326-1: "This will relieve that tendency of cold feet, that tendency of the poor circulation in the extremities." And reading 2305-1 said, "Use this whenever tired or when desiring to sleep well."

My personal research eventually grew into an in-depth project at Meridian Institute, a non-profit research organization that is scientifically exploring the Cayce health readings under the auspices of Atlantic University and the A.R.E.

The readings said the radio-active appliance acted like a "radio magnet." That was in the 1920s before people associated "radio-active" with the dangers of atomic energy. It actually contains no radioactivity, and now is often called the radial appliance, for its radial attachments to the body, or the impedance device, for its electrical properties.

The appliance looks like a battery, but produces no electricity of its own. It is simply constructed - a metal can, with two pieces of steel and glass inside, surrounded by carbon blocks, and packed in charcoal.  The steel contains a high percentage of carbon.  Wires that plug into the top of the can are attached to the wrists and ankles by Velcro straps.  The appliance is activated by placing it in ice water.

Its purpose is to balance the body's own electricity.  The Cayce readings generally recommend that it be used for about an hour in the evenings, while meditating.

Could such a simple device produce the effects described in the Cayce readings?  To find out, David McMillin and I researched the history of electrical medicine.  One of the founders of Meridian Institute, David has written several books on the Cayce health readings concerning mental health, and he and I had worked together on a book on the Cayce appliances (The Radial Appliance and Wet Cell Battery, available from the A.R.E. Bookstore - 804-428-3588, ext. 231).
We found that over the years electricity has been used in many ways to influence the body.  For example, orthopedic surgeon Robert Becker found that very small electrical currents stimulate wound and bone healing.  Much larger electrical currents are used in the treatment of depression.

Searching for devices based on such principles, we discovered that Leon E. Eeman, a researcher in Cayce's day, had recommended the Eeman Biocircuit, a device similar to the radio-active appliance, and had written a book in 1947, Co-operative Healing, documenting his exploration of the natural healing electricity produced by the human body.  His little-known device was tested in a controlled study by researchers Julian Isaacs and Terry Patten (see the 1991 Subtle Energies journal), and found to produce relaxation and other measurable effects.

The A.R.E. Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona has done exploratory research which showed that the radio-active appliance had some effect on a blood chemical, dopamine, which is associated with relaxation (see Venture Inward May/June '89).

Recognizing that electrical effects on the human body had been demonstrated in these studies, I decided to try using the appliance, not sure what I was supposed to feel because the readings said, "Nothing will be felt, but you will feel better after this has been used a few days." (1842-3)

The first night I didn't feel a thing.  My hands and feet were still cold, and I didn't sleep any better.  The second night, I still didn't notice a change.  The most I could say was that this was a good opportunity to meditate for an hour.  But on the third night, something strange happened.  When I went to bed after using the appliance, my entire body felt cold, so cold that I put on blankets and a hooded sweatshirt in July - but I had the best night's sleep that I had had in months!  Over the next several nights, my body warmed up, and I was still sleeping well.
I repeated the experiment the following November, after four months of not using the appliance, with a digital thermometer to measure the temperatures of my hands and feet.  This time, at the beginning, I had a 22-degree difference between my hands and feet.  After a few days of using the appliance, my feet had warmed up and there was only a 3-degree difference!  I decided to keep using the appliance the rest of the winter.

For years my feet had been so cold that I went to bed all winter long wearing socks.  Now, I no longer needed socks, and my wife commented that my feet felt normal to her ("toasty warm," in fact), no longer like they had been in the refrigerator.

This positive result was enough to convince me to keep using the appliance - another successful personal test of the Cayce readings.  But as the scientist, I wanted to know whether this device really worked, or whether it was my own wishful thinking.  And I wanted to know whether I was a rare case, or whether it would be similarly useful to others.

At Meridian Institute, we designed a controlled, scientific study to determine its effects on temperature.  A Texas foundation, the Morrison Trust, funded the project.  Tom Dewey, a supplier in Virginia Beach, built the appliances we tested.  We chose 30 volunteer participants from the local community.  Half were given working appliances.  The other half - the control group - received appliances that were not connected.  We performed the experiment double-blind: neither the participants nor the experimenters knew who had working appliances.  Only at the end of the experiment would they find out which was which.  The reason for this double-blind control procedure is that we knew that belief alone can often produce strong healing results.  We wanted to learn what the appliance could accomplish beyond simple belief in healing.  This is the same research procedure used to evaluate the effectiveness of new drugs.

Each participant was asked to use the appliance as Cayce instructed for 16 sessions - 1 hour each evening at home.  We measured the temperatures of their hands and feet three times - once before they began the experiment, once after a week of use, and at the end of the 16 sessions.  We also asked about their relaxation during the sessions and any improvement in their sleeping habits.

As the project unfolded, we noted some impressive changes.  When I shook hands with "Robert," a 22-year-old student, on his first visit to the laboratory, I knew we had an excellent subject.  His hands were like ice, and he told me they had been that way for years.  He was eager to try anything that could help him warm his hands.  On his second visit, when we shook hands, his hand was hot.  After less than a week of using the appliance, his hand temperature had gone up over 20 degrees!

"Andrea," a 39-year-old teacher, began the project with colds hands and feet, and was having a lot of trouble sleeping.  She would awaken during the night, thinking incessantly, unable to rest.  This was the sort of person that reading 1800-16 recommended the appliance for when it said: "This would be good for anyone, see? especially to rest tired businessmen, overtaxed ladies - there are a few!"

When Andrea returned for her second measurement in the lab, her hands were still cool, but her feet were 6.6 degrees warmer.  On her third visit to the lab, a month later, she remarked at how much easier it now was to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, and her feet were now 1 0 degrees warmer.  A few months later, in a cold, air-conditioned theater, she recalled how she used to wear a coat to the movies, even in the summer.  Now, she was comfortable in a tank top.  And whenever she had trouble sleeping, she just used the appliance a few times to resolve the problem.

While Robert and Andrea showed impressive increases in their hand or foot temperatures, some people showed no change, or even a decrease.  But we didn't know who actually had the working appliances until the end of the project.

When we finally found out, the overall results were a little surprising.  We were happy to discover that Robert and Andrea had used working appliances.  We found a statistically significant difference between the group with the working appliances and the control group. (Statistical significance is a measure of whether the result differs from random chance.) At the end of the first week, the group with the working appliances on the average had a hand/foot temperature difference significantly warmer (5.1 degrees) than the control group.  But by the end of the 16 sessions, the results were less clear.  The temperature differences, while higher, were not great enough to be statistically significant.
With such promising results at the end of the first week, why weren't they significant after 16 sessions?  Positive results, I believe, depended on how consistently the appliance was used by each participant.  The instructions had been to use the appliance 16 times, once each day, for 16 days.  Realizing that sometimes people would have to skip a day or two, we had set a maximum of a month to complete 16 sessions.  But only half the participants actually completed their sessions within the month.  Many either had events interfere, or simply forgot to use the appliance often enough to fulfill our objective.  We found that consistency in using the appliance was clearly related to how strong the effect was.  The best results came from using the appliance every night.  Less than four times a week produced little effect.

In hindsight, we might wish we had been stricter in pushing people to use the appliance consistently, for the readings emphasized the importance of "consistency and persistency" to achieve any real healing.  But had everyone cooperated this well, we would never have learned how important this principle really is.  Now we have good reason to advise people to use the appliance every night if they want the best results. (The readings also usually suggest several days' break after every few weeks of use.)

We also learned a little about the placebo effect.  It is recognized in medical circles that just believing you have taken a medication, even when it is only a sugar pill (known as a placebo), may often cure a disease.  As Cayce said, "Mind is the builder.  The physical is the result." We noted the same effect in our study.  Several people with disconnected appliances had substantial hand warming.  Separating this result from the actual effect of the appliance is the reason we needed a control group.

As an example, "Evelyn," a 44-year-old office worker, began the project with very cold hands.  She felt uncomfortable even in a normally air-conditioned room.  During her first session, she told me that she had previously tried biofeedback to warm her hands.  In biofeedback, one learns to control hand temperature from watching a thermometer - a skill, once learned, you probably never forget.  She was also an experienced meditator, adept at achieving a relaxed state, and often practiced it to warm herself in cold rooms.  Although she was in the control group, by her second session, her hand temperature had increased from the mid-70s to the low 90s.  During her nightly sessions on the (disconnected) appliance, she was practicing the relaxation skills she had previously learned.  In short, the Cayce appliance is not the only way to relax the nervous system and warm the hands.

Is the appliance a cure-all?  It appears as part of the Cayce treatment for a large variety of conditions.  Many people wish for a magic appliance that can heal them of any disease.  But the Cayce readings typically recommended this appliance, not as a cure, but as an aid to balance and rest, and as an element of more complete treatments aimed at the ailments of specific individuals.  In our study, several people seemed to be helped quite a lot; others showed little effect.  There is certainly more research to do before we fully understand the potential of the appliance, and can identify the people for whom it will be most effective.

Some of the effects may not be as easily detected and measured as temperature changes, for reading 1158-11 says "the vibrations created by [the appliance] are not curatives - these are equalizers.  If the body is tired, if the body grows weary, mentally or physically, this will be found to be most beneficial - it is for any body."

We still don't understand the physical principles underlying these effects.  It appears to make a simple electrical connection between the wrist on one side of the body and the ankle on the opposite side.  The A.R.E. Clinic researchers speculated that it might have something to do with the acupuncture points of Chinese medicine.  But the Cayce readings emphasized the importance not only of good electrical connections, but of using steel with high carbon content, and cooling the appliance in ice water to activate it.  Although the readings often talk about vibrations, Cayce was not explicit in explaining how the device actually works.

Researchers in energy medicine recognize the potential in such devices, but still lack sufficient data to theorize about how they work.  For now, the challenge is to confirm that the appliance actually does work, and learn more about its effects and the people who respond best to it.  As reading 180028 said, back in 1936: "In those experimentations of the radio-active appliance: Not near sufficient experimentation has been given these products."

At Meridian Institute we are working to overcome that deficiency.


Home | Purpose | People | Projects | Library | Resources

 Copyright © 2006 Meridian Institute